What Is a Solar Inverter & What Does It Do? (Home Solar Depends on DC to AC)

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Solar Panels | April 1, 2024

People hooking up a solar panel system wonder what is a solar inverter and is dc to ac converter the same and what does an inverter do, hoping to find information that outlines solar power inverter for home explained.

As the adoption of solar energy continues to increase for a variety of reasons, many people wonder, just what is a solar inverter and what does it do?

If you’ve considered using solar energy for some or part of your home, you’ve likely come across the term.

Solar power for your home depends on changing a direct current (DC) into an alternating one (AC).

Solar inverters convert Direct Current (DC) electricity that is generated by the panel into Alternating Current (AC) which can be used by your home wiring.1

Additionally, AC energy is needed to power the infrastructure and industries that operate.

The ability to transform DC energy into AC energy makes the solar inverter fundamental in the solar energy system because it manages the flow of electric current back to the grid whenever there is excess production (in some cases).

Moreover, a solar inverter enhances the solar output by aligning usage with remote conditions and variations in demand.

This complete guide explained what is a solar inverter and what it does, as well as the types of inverters that are most applicable for the different energy needs they service.

What Is a Solar Inverter? (Solar Power Inverter)

A solar power inverter, also known as a photovoltaic (PV) inverter, is a solar system mechanism that transforms the DC electricity from panels into usable ac electricity.5

As you search for solar power, you might have heard of a single-phase solar inverter, which means one live wire connecting to your home.

This also means that with a single-phase, you need a single solar inverter.

Solar power inverters allow you to get usable AC from the sun.

So, how much power does a solar panel produce? The amount of energy that a solar panel has is determined by size.

What Does an Inverter Do?

What does a solar inverter do?

As indicated earlier, the inverter is essential to the solar power system. An inverter converts DC into AC energy.

As a tool for converting DC to usable energy, the inverter helps create usable electricity for powering homes and industries.2 It is often combined with a charge controller so that direct current can be channeled to storage (batteries).

However, the voltage in DC is not only in one direction but also uninterrupted.

A solar panel technician wearing safety gloves installs a solar power inverter.

(Image: Paolo Pagaling14)

In contrast, when the current is in AC, the flow is two-directional because it changes from positive to negative.

Therefore, the inverter can be considered a converter because it transforms DC energy into AC electricity while swiftly changing the DC input. Nonetheless, there is a distinction between inverter vs converter.

Although a converter can change the current from AC to DC, the inverter transforms DC to AC energy.

An inverter can monitor solar power functions and alert homeowners of a power outage. Furthermore, more advanced inverters can work even with a power disruption brownout.

Why Do Solar Cells Need an Inverter?

Solar cells need the solar inverter to transform DC power into AC energy for powering homes and industries.

Although solar cells generate DC energy, they can’t power the grid alone. Therefore, a solar inverter ensures that the power produced is compatible by converting it to AC energy.

The solar cells need an inverter to show power usage and production. The inverter can also safeguard your home from overloading during a power outage.

How Does a Solar Inverter Work?

The solar inverter is a valuable part of the solar power system, but how does a solar inverter work? The solar inverter transforms DC produced by panels into usable AC energy.

Your domestic appliances need AC instead of DC; hence, the solar inverter must transform DC power gathered by your panels. AC power is required to power household appliances and most industrial machines.13

Does Solar Energy Depend on DC to AC Inverter?

Ascertaining the DC to AC inverter can help you understand a solar inverter.

The DC to AC inverter transforms DC to AC. When the current is in DC, energy flow is one-directional; however, in AC, the current changes from the positive terminal to the negative terminal.

In the United States, the power alternates direction sixty times per minute, equivalent to 60 hertz of AC. When rays from the sun hit your panel, it triggers the movement of electrons.

The current movement in one direction leads to the generation of DC energy.

Solar panels accumulate and supply the current to the solar inverter, transforming DC into usable electricity. So, it is crucial to know how to wire solar panels to ensure the proper functionality of the solar system.

A functional system relies on the appropriate wiring of solar panels to the inverter that transforms DC power into AC.3 The wiring of solar panels can be in parallel or series.

Solar panels feature positive and negative terminals. Thus, when wiring solar panels in a series, the wire from the positive terminal of one panel should be connected to the negative terminal of the next panel.

The challenge with series wiring is that shaded solar panels affect current flow.

The parallel wiring is more complex. Thus, parallel wiring connects all positive terminals to a single wire while the negatives are attached to another.

Solar Panel Kit With Battery and Inverter

There are different solar panel kits, but the solar panel kit with battery and inverter is popular because it will help you begin the installation process. The solar panel kit with battery features one or several batteries connected in parallel or series using solar panel connectors types such as Amphenol and MC4.4

A solar inverter with batteries with its cover removed showing the wiring inside a solar inverter.

(Image: tjg_3d15)

The battery aims to offer continuous backup in case of a power outage or load shedding. The battery also allows the solar panels to supply AC energy to certain loads when there are power blackouts.

Similarly, the solar panel kit with an inverter is useful for on-grid solar. The inverter can convert the input power from the sun to usable energy.3

Additionally, the inverter can optimize your energy, monitor system productivity, and communicate with the utility grid.

The inverter can also identify faults that can damage your system. Degradation and aging of your solar system can cause electrical defects such as arcs and faults.

If these faults arise, the inverter can spontaneously spot the issue and shut down, safeguarding the entire solar power system. Therefore, when selecting a kit, use a solar panel with a battery and inverter for reliability and efficiency.

Power Inverter for Home

There are various solar polar inverters; however, the power inverter for the home is influenced by different variables.6 These factors include; the aim of your solar energy usage, utility guidelines of your residential area, manufacture, frequency of shade, and complexity of your roof.

For example, a string inverter is suitable if you’re looking for a cost-effective inverter; your house’s roof has a basic layout and gets consistent sun throughout the year.

A number of solar inverters that are mounted on the wall.

(Image: tjg_3d16)

On the other hand, a micro inverter and power optimizers are suitable for a home with a complicated roof and you want maximum power output.

The hybrid inverter is ideal for people considering using solar to charge their electric vehicle (EV) or individuals interested in energy storage options.

Best Inverter for Solar (Micro Inverter Solar Panel)

Exploring the issue of a solar inverter can help you determine the best inverter for solar. There are various factors to consider when looking for the best solar inverter; focusing on price and efficiency is essential.

Therefore, the best solar inverter is affordable and efficient. Primarily, micro-inverters are more costly than other types of inverters.7

Nevertheless, unlike string inverters, micro-inverter solar is reliable and durable. As the latest solar inverter, it offers high performance and is suitable for homeowners interested in maximum solar generation.1

It is ideal for properties with complicated roofs, particularly those with chimneys or gables that cause shading.

Furthermore, they have a warranty and a lifespan of 15 to 25 years compared to string inverters, warranted for 10 years. Micro-inverters optimize the productivity of individual panels to minimize shading and monitoring of your solar system.8

As a result, when searching for the best inverter for your solar, you should determine how to test solar panels. You can use a multimeter to test your solar panels by determining the amperage, voltage, and other factors.

The digital multimeter is more sophisticated and used to test and accurately interpret your solar panels. However, you begin testing to ensure the multimeter is on DC.

In addition, ensure the multimeter settings are higher than the voltage of your solar panel. This will assist you in accurately determining your actual power yield.

Shade patterns and your home’s location influence solar inverters’ efficiency. In this case, string inverters are more efficient because they are appropriate for areas with consistent sunlight; optimizers and micro inverters are ideal for properties with complicated roofs or shady regions.9

Hence, to choose the best solar inverter, contact a reputable installer to give you relevant insights.

Micro Inverter Solar Panel
  • Reliable and durable
  • Suitable for maximum solar generation
  • A good choice for properties with complicated roofs
  • A warranty and a lifespan of 15 to 25 years

Types of Solar Inverters

Anyone considering solar energy as an option would be curious to know about the types of solar inverters.

Graphics of types of solar inverter showing solar panels connected to homes through string inverter, micro-inverter, power optimizers, and hybrid inverter.

Inverters can be categorized into four types including; micro inverters, string inverters, power optimizers, and hybrid inverters.9

String Inverters

String inverters are ideal for designing simple solar power systems.10 Solar panels are connected on a string tied to a centralized inverter.

The energy flows from the solar panels into the centralized inverter that transforms DC electricity into usable AC energy.

Besides, it is easy to maintain a robust inverter because it can be located at an easy-to-access location such as a garage or basement. Furthermore, a string inverter is cheaper than a micro-inverter because you only need one to support multiple solar panel strings.

Another significant aspect of a string inverter is durability, but it also requires a simple setup to execute essential functions. Nonetheless, when there is poor performance in one panel, it can disrupt other panels across the string.11

Another challenge with string inverters is that they are unsuitable for roofs with regular shading. In addition, it’s not efficient in complex solar system designs where panels are not matched into strings.

Regardless of the downsides of this type of inverter, it’s a good alternative if you’re looking for a low-cost inverter and your home has a basic layout for receiving regular sunrays.

Micro Inverters

Unlike a string inverter, which is centralized, the micro inverter is distributed and small.12 In other words, the micro inverter is mounted on the back of every panel.

Furthermore, micro inverters transform DC into AC electricity on the roof.

Micro inverters are, therefore, suitable for properties that receive constant shading. These inverters also optimize the performance of every panel at the site to reduce the impacts of shading, which allows you to monitor your system’s productivity at each panel.

Micro inverters also allow you to easily expand your system’s size in the future because every new panel comes with an inverter. The string inverter is designed to accommodate a certain number of panels, so it cannot support additional electricity production.

Therefore, which is the best option for your solar system, micro-inverter vs a string inverter? Even though a string inverter is cheaper than a micro inverter, the best inverter depends on various factors, including; sun exposure, energy goals, and the size of your solar system.

However, micro-inverters are more costly than string inverters. In addition, they are located on the rooftop, which makes maintenance challenging.12

Essentially, micro inverters are ideal for adequate power generation for properties with complex roofs or areas with shading throughout the year.

Power Optimizers

The power optimizer is a type of solar inverter that generates maximum power but is expensive. Compared to micro-inverters, power optimizers are located on each solar panel to determine the energy produced and enhance their overall output.3

This type of solar inverter maximizes individual panels’ electricity productivity, thereby mitigating the shading effect. As a result, power optimizers can be a good option if your house has a complicated roof and you’re looking for enhanced performance.

Hybrid Inverter

The hybrid inverter is the latest solar inverter. Moreover, a hybrid inverter combines a PV inverter and a battery inverter.

This combination allows homeowners with solar energy systems to maximum string-straight setup.

Unlike other inverters, the hybrid inverter can convert DC energy from solar panels to AC.

This inverter also can transform AC power from the grid to DC useful in solar batteries or a Tesla.

A wall-mounted solar inverter from Tesla connected to an AC disconnect.

(Image: RickyCourtney17)

The hybrid inverter is a good choice for power backup; however, it cannot be located in areas with consistent shading or properties with a complex roof.

Understanding the answer to what is a solar inverter can help you design a solar energy system that not only meets your electricity needs and more.

Frequently Asked Questions About What Is a Solar Inverter?

What Are the Factors To Consider on How To Calculate Solar Panel Battery and Inverter?

If you want to enjoy the benefits of solar energy, you should be able to calculate the solar panel battery and inverter. The calculation can help establish your energy needs, inverter specification, load wattage, and battery specification of the solar system.


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14Paolo Pagaling. Pixabay. Retrieved from pixabay.com. <https://pixabay.com/photos/inverter-grid-tie-solar-647181/>

15Photo by tjg_3d. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/images/id-1035179/>

16tjg_3d. Pixabay. Retrieved from pixabay.com. <https://pixabay.com/images/id-1035177/>

17Tesla Solar Inverter and AC disconnect Photo by RickyCourtney / Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0). Resized. From Wikimedia Commons <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tesla_Solar_Inverter_and_AC_disconnect.jpg>